The great chain of being is a hierarchical structure of all matter and life that places humans below God but above everything else worldly. It has underlined western world views since Plato and Aristotle put to paper their understandings of the nature of the universe, and is a predominant conception in the Christian worldview.
The idea of humans as superior to the rest of the physical world has provided the moral authority to use anything physical in the name of progress. However, today the idea of progress for progress sake is starting to be replaced with the question of what it is exactly we think we are progressing toward. A 2012 World Bank report suggests towards an uninhabitable planet.
Yet we continue to be driven by the idea that anything that promotes economic growth is good for us. Scientific study is often secondary to economic concerns of the already wealthy when considering policies. Also, scientists themselves are not immune to the economic influence of self-serving power centres in their respective fields, or from political pressures from outside their research areas.
For instance, the Harper government has quickly eroded the neutral research capacity in Canada and we are now more reliant on industry-funded research then we have ever been before when considering new policies and licensing products. With the cancellation of the long form census and the massive jobs cuts to research scientists at Environment Canada, there is much less information for policy makers to base decisions on, or for watch dogs’ critiques.
The closure of the Experimental Lakes Area in northern Ontario, which has led the world in freshwater research for four decades, shocked not only the scientists that worked there, but also scientists around the world who used the data collected for their research and analyses. Nowhere else in the world is there as much research and data amassed on entire isolated freshwater lakes, which are located in areas that may soon be clear-cut.
This is a blatant example of misguided priorities by the people elected to manage our affairs.
Another example of disregarding environmental concerns when making policy happened in March when the Harper government pulled out of the 1994 Convention to Combat Desertification, which has been ratified by every member of the United Nations. Environmental Scientists have predicted last year’s severe drought across the U.S. Midwest may continue through this summer, and it will not take many more years like last summer until desertification becomes a much more pressing issue on the continent. Yet Canada is the only country in the U.N. to reject the Convention to Combat Desertification, even though there are large tracts of land in the Prairies that are vulnerable to the process.
Acting with a complete disregard for international laws is the rule for the Harper government, not the exception--see the Kyoto protocol. But the problem is that the countries being ignored at the U.N. are our trading partners, and don’t think for a second that Harper’s refusal to work towards progressive environmental laws doesn’t affect our relationships with them. Sure China may not care about our environmental track record, but our trading partners in the E.U.do care. When given the option, why would they choose to trade with a country whose environmental policies as lax as ours, when they can instead trade with countries with policies closer in line with their own?
Focusing on making quick money from the resource industry and not worrying about long-term environmental impacts, or our international image and relationships, is a classic Harper move. Unfortunately, it is also becoming increasingly seen as a classic Canadian move by many of our trading partners and allies. It is inevitable that people of the world will demand progressive environmental policies from their governments as the effects of climate change become more apparent. So it might well be in our best interests to elect representatives that don’t make us look like such jerks in the eyes of the world.